Look at, See and Watch

Look at”, “See” and “Watch” are all very similar verbs, but we use them differently.

See” is very passive. It just means to notice something with your vision. It doesn’t require any effort.
“I saw Tom at the party, but I didn’t say hello.”

“It is so dark I can’t see anything”


Look at” is active and involves some effort. You are seeing + concentrating for a reason, and paying attention.
Look at that beautiful sunset.”

“Stop looking at my chest.”


Watch” is where you look at some action that is happening (usually something is moving or changing) for a period of time.
“I watch TV every night.”

“I watched the ballerina spin.”


Exceptions (advanced)

Sometimes people will say

“I watched a movie” or “I saw a movie”
“Do you want to watch a musical?” or “Do you want to see a musical?”

In these cases “watch” and “see” are both okay.
That is because the nouns “movie” and “musical” are always moving actions that happen.
If you see it, you watch it.

But TV is different.
“I watched TV” = “I watched a TV show” = the event

I watch TV in bed.

“I saw a TV” – “I saw a television set” = the thing

I saw a TV in the room.

Conditionals and modals

One last thing about conditionals. Sometimes the 1st, 2nd and 3rd conditionals are given nicknames:

1st conditional “If… will…” : “If you grow taller you will be a model.”




2nd conditional “If… would” : “If you were taller you would be a model!”

3rd conditional “If… would have” : “If you had been taller you would have been a model!”


If those nicknames help you remember that’s great. But you don’t have to use will/would/would have in those main clauses. You can use any modal, such as can/ could / could have, may/ might/ might have, won’t/ wouldn’t/ wouldn’t have etc…




I’ll briefly talk about the differences in those main modals:

“If you were taller you would be a model” the speaker thinks this is very likely. Close to 100% chance.

“If you were taller you wouldn’t be a model” the speaker thinks this is very unlikely. Close to 0% chance

“If you were taller you might be a model” the speaker thinks it could happen, but the chance is not very high or low. Around 50% chance, but could be higher or lower.




“If you were taller you could be a model” the speaker thinks this is possible. That’s all. They are not commenting on the chance or likelihood at all.

“Even if you were taller you couldn’t be a model” again, there is no need to think about probability, the speaker thinks it is impossible.